Thanks to specialization under the division of labor, one can gain immense values by living with others in a proper society — namely knowledge and trade (in physical and spiritual values). Such a society operates under the moral doctrine of individualism — where each individual is regarded as an end in oneself, with an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. and not as a slave for the ends of others.

Individualism does not mean living a “rugged life” on a desert island or as a “lone wolf” in the wilderness, but like its antithesis, collectivism, specifies the nature of the relationship of the individual to the rest of society.

According to Philosopher Ayn Rand,

“Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.” [1]

The opposite of individualism is collectivism. Where collectivism holds that the life of the individual is only justified in service to the group; individualism regards the individual not as a slave, but as a sovereign being (as an end in oneself and not a means to the ends of others) that owns their own life. [2]


[1] Ayn Rand “Racism” The Virtue of Selfishness 129
[2] Observe the powerful influence of ethics on politics: altruism, the ethics that upholds self-sacrifice as a noble ideal, leads to collectivism, the politics of sacrificing the individual to the group; rational egoism leads to individualism.